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High School Musical Theater Awards Take Virtual Stage During Pandemic

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Before the COVID-19 pandemic, high school theater teachers and students throughout Utah produced and performed their annual musicals.

This year, with the help of video, they will hold their statewide competition next Saturday in a virtual theater.

Usually, this competition would take place at the Eccles Theatre in downtown Salt Lake City.

A total of 46 productions with 3,000 students, from St. George to Smithfield and Uintah to Tooele, are once again participating in the 2020 Utah High School Musical Theatre Awards.

They all saw it as a win-win.

“Competition provides an opportunity for students to do what they love, to perform for each other,” said Katelin Knight, musical theatre director at the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. “They get to have feedback on their shows from working professionals in the field and it’s really an invaluable tool for these students.”

In the 10th year of the competition and with a panel of 16 judges, Utah Festival Opera and Broadway Across America will award students scholarships and offer professional training in acting, directing and choreography, as well as lighting and costume and scenic design.

A planned trip to New York City and face-to-face training from Broadway professionals will have to happen online.

Hillcrest High School’s entry is “42nd Street” and Caroline Ciet is a best actress nominee.

“It’s just all of these kids coming in and doing something that they love together and it’s not competitive, just about the art,” she said. “As a senior, I’m really glad it’s happening, because it’s kind of giving me some of that closure that I might have not had without it.”

Even if they were not gathering to cheer on each other, the students have become fast friends.

Jefferson Murdock from Wasatch High School is “The Scarlett Pimpernel!”

“We started a group chat with all of the best actor nominees and it has been so cool to just talk to them in a normal setting and just become friends,” Murdock said.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine, he reminded them all not to take anything for granted.

“What’s been really cool to see, even though we’re far apart from each other, is how this experience is bringing us closer together,” Murdock said.

Submissions for the competition can be found here, along with photos from the competing schools.

The awards show will be held at 7 p.m. on May 16.

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